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Stuck On The First Paragraph? Three (Uncommon) Ways to Bust Out Your Best–Even At Your Worst.

In: Creative Writing for the Internet

Sometimes, you stare at the screen.

And you stare at the screen. And then you go get a bagel. And then you stare at the screen. *whips out nail file* *stares at cuticles* *stares at screen* *stares at cuticles* *wonders how many dead skin cells fall into keyboard during average workday*

And then you tell yourself you've had enough. You're going to get down to business. You make a stern face. You furrow your eyebrows. You turn off Spotify, and you get into concentration mode. You look fondly at the cursor. You look angrily at the cursor. You start cursing at the cursor. You take a bite of bagel and see who's on Twitter. You nonchalantly stalk your ex. He thinks he's soooo great. Yeah, well, you might be Vice President of the awesomest company in the world, but…NICE COMBOVER! *SNARK SNARK SNARK*  Too bad you're losing your hair!  *SNARK SNARK SNARK* Too bad you lost me! *SNARK SNARK SNARK*


…maybe he didn't love me because I'm too fat? *WEEPS INTO PILLOW*


Before you know it, it's twelve noon and you're now alternating between licking the tub of cream cheese and watching Dr. Phil reruns…without getting a single word onto the page.

When you find yourself in the depths of writing despair, have no fear – there are things. 

Ash's Top Three Things To Do When You're Experiencing Such Bad Writer's Block You Can't Even Remember How to Spell “Oink.”

(Because everyone knows how to spell oink. Obviously.)

  1. Think of it like a movie trailer.
    This is, by far, one of my favorites. Anytime I'm writing for a client and it's just not comin' to me–so help my soul–I'll imagine what their personal movie trailer might look like. Movie trailers are great for getting a start on your writing because first off, we can all imagine what a movie trailer is like (so you know what I'm saying here) and second, because people who make movie trailers are great at eliciting insta-emotion within a really short time frame. They also tell an entire story within a really short time frame. And it's really good when you're looking to find that overall HOOK – what's the one thing/phrase/sentence/headline/concept/paragraph that's going to reel your readers in? Here's a sample of some copy I wrote this way – which was actually ideal, since this is teaser copy for a novel.
  2. With popular topics/businesses/industries that you have no IDEA what you could say to make this sound different than everything else out there, really think to yourself: What would this have to say for ME to want it?
    While you may not be an exact match for a target audience, one thing you do have in common is the fact that you're both probably sick and tired of hearing the same stuffy jargon, the same clichĂ©s, the same tired message. So…what would the words have to say to make YOU do a double take? Fresh is always a good approach.
     Here's a sample of copy I recently wrote for a real estate agent–one of the most common industries there is.
  3. Help them envision the possibilities–how they'll use it, where they'll put it, how it'll make them feel every single day, and how much better life will be with it–particularly if you're selling something that isn't so much a need, but more a want–and, by extension, optional in the minds of your buyers.
    Unfortunately, most things in life are wants–not needs. But in order to get buyers, they've got to feel like they need it. So how do you go about making them feel this way? Most experts will tell you to focus on the pain points, but sometimes, it's nicer (and just as effective) to focus on the pleasure points. How sweet life will be with my new _________. I recently wrote copy for a wrought iron outdoor accessories designer (read: big, stately gates, trellises, mirrors, wall-hangings), and this was certainly the case of a want–not a need. 
    Take a look at what I did with this copy–specifically paying attention to “Maybe You Have” section, helping them to see the possibilities of how on earth they could ever see themselves with wrought iron garden accessories. Not probably something they were shopping for–but something they may end up wanting. (And buying.)

And, of course, if none of those work… 

…there's always the tried and true method of changing your environment which, as typical as that sounds, is actually really good advice. I end up writing my best stuff in random hotel rooms – ALWAYS. 

Another favorite? Consider some unexpected clashes of words + concepts. Music artists Tegan and Sara are great at doing this with their lyrics: 

Look me in the eye and tell me you don't find me attractive

Look me in the heart tell me you won't go

Look me in the heart is a brilliant line.
And it's unexpected.
And it evokes an electrifying image.
So I challenge you – what can you say to hit the reader in the face with a crowbar?
Writing doesn't always come easy. You've got to work at it. You've got to play. Substitute. Look up synonyms. Add. Erase. Rearrange. And most importantly, THINK.
Because at the end of the day, those times you find yourself stressing out and staring at the screen?
Are for amateurs who don't yet know that staring at the screen…
…is all part of the process. 
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